Grit, resilience, perseverance, and emotional intelligence are all crucial character traits for moral development and success. When so much of young people’s lives happens on screens, and gratification is just a click away, how is this affecting youth’s development of character? On Wednesday, September 8th, 2021, Children and Screens hosted “Establishing Character in a Digital World: Building Grit, Resilience, and Socioemotional Skills.” A panel of experts weighed in on how children and adolescents can utilize digital media as a tool for strong character and socioemotional skill development, as well as how parents can help moderate screen use to ensure children and teens have enough offline experiences for positive character development.

Speakers

  • Michael Ungar, PhD

    Author, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success, Director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University
    Moderator
  • Deborah Gilboa, MD

    Resilience expert, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Author, Teach Resilience: Raising Kids Who Can Launch!
    Moderator
  • Lisa Fiore, PhD

    Director, Child Homelessness Initiative, Professor and Chair, Education Division, Lesley University
  • Christopher Willard, PsyD

    Psychologist and Educational Consultant, Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • Andrea Hussong, PhD

    Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Family Journeys Co-Lab, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Melanie Sage, PhD

    Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Social Work
  • David Yeager, PhD

    Adolescent Development Research Group, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin

On Wednesday, September 8th, Children and Screens hosted “Establishing Character in a Digital World: Building Grit, Resilience, and Socioemotional Skills,” where interdisciplinary experts discussed how children and adolescents are utilizing digital media as a tool for strong character development, the ways digital media can interfere with this growth, as well as how grit and resilience develop over time in response to children’s environments and experiences.

2:01 Michael Ungar, PhD, the moderator of our first panel, begins today’s webinar by offering advice to parents hoping to grow resilience in their children. He dispels the belief that grit is an individualistic trait, and instead challenges parents to consider resilience as something that can be grown in children by the supportive networks of trusted adults in their lives. By creating a manageable amount of risk with the resources to overcome the challenges, adolescents and children will begin to grow more and more resilient. As the saying goes, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

7:10 David Yeager, PhD, expands on the idea of cultivating resilience by implementing two strategies: finding purpose in learning and transferring experiences. Dr. Yaeger explains how children and adolescents are not as insular as parents might assume, but rather do care about the world around them and their place within it. By giving them the space to talk about social issues they’re passionate about, they can be encouraged to find spaces to develop and utilize these passions, both on and offline. Dr. Yaeger also encourages parents and educators to provide opportunities for children to reflect when they overcome challenges; this reflection will be an incredibly useful tool the next time there is a concern!

17:45 Mindfulness in a time of constant connectivity is an incredible tool for resilience-building. Christopher Willard, PsyD, walks participants through a mindfulness exercise, looking at how to stay in the present moment and overcome feelings of stress. Dr. Willard also discusses using “time wasters” (e.g., “I Spy” and “Simon Says”) as a means of building executive functioning and resilience skills.

30:07 The first three speakers then engage in a lively conversation about grit and resilience, wrestling with the question of privilege, how some communities are more exposed to hardships than others, and which children ultimately are able to develop grit.

48:53 Deborah Gilboa, MD, joins the discussion to moderate the second half of the webinar. She explores the idea of helping kids understand that bad things will happen in their lives, but there are ways to support children to help them learn resilient coping strategies.

54:38 Resilience and gratitude go hand in hand, according to Andrea Hussong, PhD. Gratitude is a skill that develops over time, and encouraging moments of gratitude will help children find support systems in their communities, whether online or in person. After all, as the world becomes more digital, the relationships that children develop with their online friends are increasingly becoming a greater part of their support system than ever before.

1:06:36 Echoing Dr. Hussong’s sentiments, Melanie Sage, PhD, explores resilience in marginalized communities– particularly children in foster care and LGBTQ+ youth. She offers the advice that potential risk is not the same as harm, and resilience requires exposure to difficult situations. She suggests caretakers support their children and adolescents by replacing worry with curiosity, allowing children to explore online and ask thoughtful, non-judgmental questions about their digital activity.

1:20:18 To round out the second panel, Lisa Fiore, PhD, frames her remarks with the idea that “hope is a discipline.” She notes that, in order to build grit, students must be willing to grow. She promotes having a growth mindset, and encourages helping children to set goals as smaller stepping stones rather than taking on larger problems head-on. She also points out that the role of a caretaker in this situation is to provide unconditional positive regard, as every student has something worth celebrating!

1:36:06 The second panel concludes with questions around supporting children in a world of impossible beauty standards, helping children prepare for making mistakes online, and ways for parents to step back and give the children space to make mistakes, so that they may become stronger in the future.

[Dr. Gabrielle McHarg]: Hello and welcome. I am Dr. Gabrielle McHarg, Assistant Director of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development and host of today’s “Ask the Experts” webinar. Thanks for joining. In a world of instant gratification, friends who are just a click away, constant connectivity, high action video games and a wealth of information competing for their attention, children, teens and young adults have a steep hill to climb in order to develop grit, resilience, determination and tenacity. Nevertheless, these character traits are vital for success and for well-being. And so understanding how you as parents, caregivers, educators, clinicians and others can support children and teens as they build these positive character traits is crucial. We have convened two outstanding panels to discuss the development of grit, resilience, and socioemotional skills, as well as how digital media impact the ways children and teens are able to persevere and overcome. The panel has reviewed the questions you submitted and will answer as many as possible during and after their presentations. If you have additional questions during the workshop, please type them into the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen. When you do, please indicate whether you would like to ask your questions live on camera, if time permits, or if you would prefer that the moderator read your question. We are recording today’s workshop and we’ll upload a video to YouTube in the coming days. All registrants will receive a link to our YouTube channel, where you will find videos from our past 33 webinars, which we hope you’ll watch as you wait for this video to be posted. It is now my great pleasure to introduce our first moderator for today. Dr Michael Unger is a family therapist and professor of social work at Dalhousie University, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience. His research on resilience around the world and across cultures has made him one of the best known scholars in the field. Welcome, Michael.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Thanks, Gabrielle. What a wonderful pleasure. This is a heck of a topic and one that’s so timely, especially given the pandemic and how much time our children have been spending on screens.You know, it does build on a trend of some of the risks. And I hate to start on a bit of a negative note, but just let me set the stage here for a minute. You know, we have been seeing a steady rise in the number of anxiety disorders and rates of depression, and that’s evident in thenumber of children ending up in our emergency rooms and indeed hospitalized for those conditions across North America. So that’s been a steady rise at the same time that we’ve gotten a pretty good handle on physical illnesses. We’ve seen these spikes in our children’s mental disorders. So that’s saying something has to be done, something in terms of their resilience. In fact, during the pandemic, I was part of a big study in the United States run by segment. We show that very clearly, especially for adolescents this period of time, there’s a lack of resilience, a lack of coping capacity.Younger children, their lives weren’t so disrupted. But for those adolescents, we’ve seen this trend towards more and more problems. And indeed, the solutions seemed to be, well, frankly, in all of us. This notion of resilience that we’re going to be getting into here is really sometimes misunderstood, sometimes just thought about as an individual trait. But if I might, what the research is showing progressively more and more is that qualities like grit and mindfulness and self-regulation and all those sorts of personal talents also depend on, well, people like you. Their resources. I, I jokingly say that, you know, for every child who succeeds, they also need a fairy godmother or very godfather, if you prefer. That’s the real lesson, the real takeaway from stories like Cinderella and otherwise, it’s not just that we can expect children to show these qualities. We also know that facilitative classrooms are the enablers they are. They encounter through teachers are good neighbors or whoever are going to make it more possible for children to succeed. One of the one of the gurus of the mindfulness based stress reduction movements and a guy named John Kevin’s in. I once famously heard him say, you know, you can’t stop the waves. You can learn to surf. And while that’s a beautiful sentiment worthy of Oprah, it’s going to really linger as beautiful thought that we can get through. But what I think he kind of forgot to say was it’s a lot easier to learn to surf if we also have a surfboard, a coach and a lifeguard. And if I might, that’s the real story of resilience. It is both an individual set of rugged qualities balanced by a world of resources that can bring out our children’s best selves. So when I’ve been seeing statistics like children who are showing more and progressively increase rates of anxiety or this type of thing, I immediately go to, well, are we overprotective in our parenting or are we giving them the steeling effect, the steeling effect of having manageable amounts of risk in their lives, manageable experiences? Are we facilitating the self-regulation by shutting down the screens when it just gets to be too much? In fact, there are things that we as parents, we know that worked. In fact, during the pandemic, there were studies coming out of the states that showed clearly that families that had set routines with their kids showed that those children had lower rates of anxiety in their lives and depression as well. So there’s something about us creating opportunity, to creating that that routine, that structure in children’s lives that really counts. That’s from us as the caregivers to our kids. And indeed, there seems to be something about also just the routines that set us on a course towards positive thinking. Same with relationships. In fact, if anything, before the pandemic, we knew that there was this huge spike in loneliness amongst our kids. There was a bit of a myth, by the way, do you know that myth that kids were having sex everywhere that there was? Oh, my gosh, we’re we’re so worried about all this popular media affecting kids negatively. But that’s not the that’s not the epidemic. What was occurring before the pandemic, in fact, was this fracturing because partly because of social media fracturing of relationships, our children, they were becoming progressively more isolated, more socially more lonely. And so suddenly we’re beginning to understand that resilience is going to depend on us, creating rich environments that help kids to become their best selves, especially our teens. But even it begins younger as children begin to their online worlds and whether or not they’re going to develop the healthy habits they need to survive in those contexts. If you want to read more, go to my website Resilience Research dot org. We talk about a program called R-2 that we’re launching and everything else. But right now, my job as moderator, now that I’ve sort of set the stage here, is to introduce you to our first guest speaker. I’m really pleased that David Yeager has joined us. He is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. And Dr Yeager is interested in and in understanding the processes shaping adolescent development, especially, if I might, how social cognitive factors interact with structural and physiological factors to create what we’re mostly interested in, positive or indeed negative pathways or trajectories for young people as they live their lives. And if I could, I’ll pass it over to Dr. Yeager.

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: Well, I will share my screen. Yes, it’s great to see everyone. And I’m really excited to share some scientific background a little bit about me. I’m a parent of four. So we’ve had lots of screen time in our house over the last 18 months and a former middle school teacher. And now I do research on things like grit and growth mindset; so that as we know, grit is defined as passion and perseverance for long term goals associated with things like tenacity, doggedness, relentlessness. And in lots of studies, grit predicts positive things. For instance, who finishes the beast barracks at West Point? Notoriously difficult, grueling opportunity. Who wins the spelling bee? Mainly because the kinds of study strategies that actually help you win the spelling bee are also the most unpleasant things, like working on your weaknesses and repetitively getting feedback on your weaknesses. So grittier people are more likely to do unpleasant but useful study strategies. There’s some evidence that given a certain level of talent, grittier folks tend to do better and lead athletic settings. My focus is often on who decides to deeply learn hard things before they’re essential.

 

And this is something we think is really critical in the current knowledge economy, where a lot of the most valuable things we can do are to bring together different domains of knowledge in ways that haven’t been brought together before.

 

So what that means is we can’t just go around memorizing things that are given to us. We actually need to think creatively about novel solutions. And that means seeking out hard to acquire skills before it’s absolutely obvious that we need them and grit really comes into play with that kind of situation, especially as we’re going into online learning and lots of student directed learning opportunities where students have many opportunities to opt out of challenging experiences. For instance, in one study, we pulled a random sample of 15 year olds in America, and we asked them what kind of math homework they’d like to do; later that day, they could either do a math assignment and they’d get an easy A, but they won’t learn anything new because it covers content they’ve already mastered or an assignment where they might learn a lower grade because it’s hard, but they might learn a lot from the experience.

 

And we found that the majority of teenagers, 63 percent, chose to do the easy assignment. Thirty seven percent chose to do the hard assignment. And this is interesting. It’s a little bit more kind of gritty challenge seeking than we sometimes give young people credit for.

 

We might have thought it’d be 95 percent of teenagers would take the easy route. In fact, it’s a little more balanced. But still, the point of school is to learn things you don’t know. And if you’re only staying in your comfort zone and not being greedy and persevering, then over time we’re just going to know far less and we’re going to have wasted tons of educational resources. So for me as a parent, what I want to know is how to have more of my kids and kids that I teach choose on their own free will still deeply learn hard and challenging things when they’re not being forcefully coerced to do so.

 

So there are two research tested ways that we’ve examined to encourage grit. This is important because we often tend to think of it as like a tree. You either have it or you don’t. And then we kind of wag our finger at kids who don’t have.

 

Right. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about is quality that can be cultivated and developed through how we talk to and work with our young people. So very quickly, one is what we call a sense of purpose.

 

So this is the idea that you work hard and learn in school to gain skills. You can use to have a positive effect on the world around you, but also have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. Critically, there’s both something for you, right?

 

It’s your happy life and also for others. Right. Some impact on on others around you. How do you cultivate this purpose? We’ve developed interventions that anyone can do with their own kids. One is to reflect on social issues that you perceive to be wrong and that you think somebody ought to do something about.

 

So the environment or polarization or war or violence or hunger. Yeah, so on. Then learn the most people your age care about others and would like to make a difference even if they don’t talk about it. This is important because there’s what Dale Miller calls a norm of soft self-interest, that everyone hears everyone else talking about selfish things and what they want out of life and how they want to enjoy things. So they tend to assume that people only care about themselves and not about others. Whereas when they think of them, but in their own internal thoughts, they say, well, I care about others, I care about the world, and I’m so mad at everyone else that no one else does. Well, it turns out that it’s a miscommunication. Lots of people care about others, but they don’t talk about it. And so we all conform to the same wrong norm that everyone is self-interested. And so you can expose that information by saying, you know, most people do care and then you need to connect what you’re learning now with steps you can take to do something about the issue you care about in the future. And a series of studies we gave teenagers the choice of doing kind of tedious math, like factoring trinomials or single digit subtraction.

 

And if they do this on a computer or they can goof off on the Internet, look at YouTube or Facebook or play video games, and secretly we tracked how much math they did versus how much they goofed off on the Internet.

 

And what we found was that students who wrote about a purpose did 30 percent more math and watched half as many videos as we did this at scale over the Internet. As far as we know, this is the largest effect that anyone’s had on kids willfully, intentionally choosing to learn on their computers rather than goof off on their computers. How do you cultivate grit: another way out and with quickly is to help kids transfer gridding experiences they’ve had across settings. So kids have had lots of opportunities to face failure and persevere. But they don’t always see those as relevant to their schoolwork.

 

So we can encourage the transfer of those assets and those strengths from previous experiences to their current ones. One way we did this is by partnering with a summer camp here in Texas. We worked with an urban charter school called KIPP, and we had kids who are rising ninth graders.

 

So they were in eighth grade at the time. We randomly assigned to get to go to a week of adventure summer camp where first they face their fears and reflected on how it showed tenacity and purpose as a as a group nightly they reflected on those lessons from the day. But then when they got back in school, and this is really critical, they wrote about how hard things they did at camp where kind of like the hard things they’re doing now in school.

 

So, for instance, one student wrote, I went to camp last summer, we went water skiing. It was hard for me to learn. After a few tries, I did it. That moment helped me learn with a little hard work you can do anything and so on.

 

At the end of the year, we had teachers rate kids for their grit. So there’s a list of kids names, and they rated how much the grit was very much like the students or a little like this student.

 

And what we found is that at the end of the year, nine months later, teachers who didn’t even know about the summer camp were more likely to nominate students for being gritty in school, but only if kids have reflected on how camp was like school.

 

And that matters because you can’t just like drop a kid on the side of a mountain and have them survive and say, now you’ve learned grit. Right? There has to be some reason why the perseverance they’ve showed in one setting is similar to the new thing they’re doing, like.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: So if I could cut in here just so we have time, just to give you a question that’s so relevant to what you’re to what you’re you’re asking here. And the question is, you’re you’ve mentioned summer camps and you’ve mentioned parents, which are really amazing.

 

Some people are curious, what can app developers do to create this grit. Do you have some sense of like online app developers do to stimulate that kind of grit?

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: Yeah, so it’s easier to answer the question what they should not do.

 

So a lot of app developers really emphasize social comparison. Right. And so you you have quantifiable rankings for likes or views and or shares. And it’s this race where it just never feels like enough. And so we’ve done research on this that if you get likes, but fewer than others, you actually feel more depressed and then you want to give up. You feel like I’m worthless. What’s the point? I’ll never I’ll never amount to anything. So I think as tempting as it is to to hijack the nucleus accumbens with our apps and make us kind of like really attentive to social comparison, and that certainly gets eyeballs, I would say, like not do that to young people. But the positive thing you can do is find ways of creating positive conformity. For instance, celebrating stories of contribution and purpose, celebrating stories where young people have set aside immediate self-interest and instead found ways to plug in and contribute even though it was hard and that’s so important because you were stuck in our little silos. We’re not connected to others. We don’t really know what’s going on with others. And we’re stuck comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.

 

So I think if we can find ways of authentically celebrating the actual struggle that someone went through to make a contribution, then that could be powerful.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: I love those those words contribution, purpose and celebrating those things and creating those opportunities for kids to reflect; what a great formula that I think even families could probably enact. So. Huge. Thanks. Thanks for that. If I could sort of bounce the ball into the next court. So Christopher Willard is a clinical psychologist and author and consultant based in Massachusetts.

 

He also teaches at Harvard Medical School. And Dr. Willard is the author of 18 books. And his thoughts on mental health have been featured in several prominent publications. That’s really sort of a wonderful to be able to connect with Christopher here online.

 

So pass it over to you.

 

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: Great. It’s such a pleasure to be here. This is such a fun panel. I’m wanting to jump on everything that everyone has said, so many wonderful threads. So I want to touch a little bit on on mindfulness, which I know you did as well, kind of in your in your lovely introduction.

 

But just I am so struck through this pandemic how much this has shifted our lives online, kids lives that were already online, even more so. And I think often when I speak on technology, there’s a few quotes that come to mind.

 

One is Sherry Turkle from MIT, who’s an anthropologist. She writes a lot about our relationship to technology. And she says, if we don’t teach our kids how to be alone, we’re going to teach them how to be lonely.

 

And I do think there’s something really challenging about learning how to how to be alone in a company of our own thoughts. Some of you might be familiar with that study from UVA, maybe about eight or 10 years ago, about putting the teenagers in a room and saying, you can you know, you can’t check your phone, but if you want, you can give yourself an electric shock. And the kids were so bored that that two-thirds of them, two thirds of the boys actually also not two-thirds of the teenage girls, chose electrocuting themselves with mild electric shocks over just having some time in their own heads.

 

And so it is we need to help people become more comfortable in their own skin, in their own brains, in their own minds. And to me, that’s a lot of what mindfulness can be helpful with. We know also another quote that comes to mind from the mindfulness tradition is there’s a Zen saying that says our our our thinking mind can be our most powerful servant or our most terrible master. And I think about that quote often when I actually think about our our devices, our screens, these are supposed to be our most helpful, loyal, helpful servant.

 

That’s why we think we got these things right. But they in many ways become our most terrible master in terms of feeling like we’re just always checking our phones. Right. With that variable-rate reinforcement schedule, which we know becomes so, so hard to break that kind of cycle of conditioning.

 

So I do also just want to share a little practice of mindfulness practice that we can do together. And mindfulness, if you’re not familiar, it’s really this idea that that’s very trendy and keeps me very well employed because I do a lot of writing on this topic.

 

But basically, this idea of of paying attention to the present moment or the here and now with acceptance and nonjudgmental and trying to do that on purpose with this deliberate kind of attention. And of course, we’re always telling kids to pay attention.

 

We’re not teaching them how to pay attention or what to pay attention to. And we know we pay attention to the present. The researchers find that we’re actually happier, that when we’re going to the past or the future or the the comparison right in our insides to other people’s outsides, as you were just saying.

 

And so invite us to do a little mindfulness practice with our phone. So presumably a lot of us have our phones nearby. I’ll just guess that that’s the case because we are human beings in the 21st century. And I’ll just ask you to to to start by just holding your phone up in your hand.

 

And you might even notice, actually, that as you raise your phone, a lot of phones have an automatic setting that they they turn on just when they detect the motion. I’ve actually set mine to turn off, so I’m not so distracted.

 

You might notice your reaction, we actually breathe differently often when we’re on a screen because our posture is different, more hunched over, but our breath becomes shorter and shallower. And you can actually just extend deep in your breath, deep in your exhale, just a little bit as you.

 

Hold this device in your hand, feeling its weight. It’s perfectly designed and smooth to fit in our hands. And you can swipe it open. And just noticing what’s on the home screen, it’s not an accident, in fact, that.

 

Little red alerts are red in color. But there are so many bright colors on here, in fact, we can actually win strategy to add more friction, to make it less addictive as to make our phone screen and black and white.

 

But we notice I notice a little bit of anxiety when I see those little red bubbles. I got to check that, noticing those urges. So being aware in our bodies of those urges to check those, but seeing if we can resist those temptations.

 

And we got such a firehose of information, whether it’s from social media or traditional media websites, and it’s almost too much for us to to digest. For us to metabolize all the emotional content that we’re getting. So invite us to do a little experiment and in just a moment.

 

I ask you to open up. A social media app or maybe go to a news website if you don’t have social media. That is, if you already had that urge and press that that button, but I’ll just. Open up one of my apps here.

 

And take a moment, you can just lower your eyes, take a breath or two. And take a look at that first post or that first headline, if it’s a news site. And just notice your emotional reaction. Oftentimes it’s jealousy, I’m not good enough.

 

I’m missing longing, I missing that friend, just notice and name that emotion. And then you can just lower your eyes again, take another breath or two. Open your eyes once more and scroll to the next. Post or headline that you see.

 

Some fear and anxiety actually arising from me just noticing that in this post. Staying with that emotion. And then just allowing your eyes to close once more. Lower your eyes A few breaths just to let the emotion pass reaction pass.

 

Using your eyes. Once more and scrolling so easy to scroll that to make this so easy to use. To the next post, and I’m noticing again, jealousy, comparison. Why aren’t I having as good a vacation as my friend?

 

Right. Just aware of that emotion. And everything else only urges to keep scrolling. If that feels like enough and then you can just click your click your phone off, just set it back down. Maybe even actually out of sight.

 

Because that actually can really help to keep our devices out of sight, that does help them be a bit more out of mind, but just. Even just taking a few moments just to become aware of all of the emotional stimuli that we get just from opening our devices, the urges, the emotions, the physical reactions, the change in our breath, and how much we know that that really is rewiring our brains, rewiring our our children’s brains. Right. So that we’re we’re we’re part of the the program, we’re part of the algorithm. And just trying to be a bit more aware of that as we bring more mindfulness.

 

It can simply help us to remember to notice. You can’t check your phone like this every time, of course, but we can just start to notice how much is really happening when we slow down and bring a bit more awareness even to our devices.

 

And that’s a useful exercise to do with your kids or to do your self every so often. So I hope this is felt kind of helpful and fun. And of course, I could go on for hours, but I do want to be aware of time and pass it forward again.

 

And thank you again for having me as a wonderful panel.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Chris, Thanks. Thanks for that. You know, it’s fascinating to just sort of to do something like a mindful exercise with something as sort of mundane and every day as a smartphone.

 

If I could, though, it’s something that I’ve often been when I work with parents as well. I’ve often been caught up in this idea that we’ve actually missed a lot of opportunities to teach our children mindfulness and self-regulation.

 

For a very simple example, we drive to you know, we go for an hour drive and we have screens, whereas when I was growing up in the good old days, you know, whatever, they weren’t really that good. But whatever, you know, we’d have to sit there and listen to our parents or look out the window.

 

We literally had to self regulate because we had no other distraction but ourselves. And I’m wondering, as we’ve kind of programmed children to be constantly stimulated in the in the every day, do you have any ideas about perhaps how can parents, I mean, certainly you do a mindful exercise like that. You have to structure such a thing as beautiful, especially, you know, before bedtime. And that’s everything. But in the every day have you seen any ways that parents can sort of just remind their children to bring into that mindfulness into their everyday?

 

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: Yeah, I think finding ways to make it playful. And I know kind of my my good old days. I think a lot about the car rides. Right. And I think about those moments and, you know, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office or in class when the teacher be finished with the lesson, just a little bit of extra time. And I remember so much of what we did were what they call it back then, time wasters. We’re going to play Simon says or ISPI or we’re going to play 20 questions or Mother May I or these little games. And I was having this realization a few years ago that all those games that we grew up playing, that we called time wasters were actually teaching such important skills and practicing them. Simon says, Mother, may I red light, green light?

 

Those are teaching careful listening impulse control. Right. Those are really critical executive functions. 20 questions ISPI that’s teaching perspective taking what we call theory of mind, which is, can I take someone else’s perspective? What’s dad thinking about right now? What could he be thinking about in in the ISPI in the area that he’s maybe looking at? My son has to get inside my head a little bit to do that. That’s a really critical emotional intelligence skill.

 

We throw out all these time wasters. We give our kids more pressure. We do the past back in the car of handing them the phone. And then we wonder why they struggle with the executive functions. We wonder why they struggle with emotional intelligence and understanding other people’s perspective.

 

And in fact, my belief is that these games were actually critical to our development. And I think even just bringing those back can be playful. And mindfulness, of course, is great. But even just playing some of these games can be really, really educational, rewarding and build some of those soft skills, those executive function skills, those emotional intelligence skills that we really want our kids to have, especially for the 21st century.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: I see a whole weekend of people now taking car rides and torturing their children that they play right off. Right. Can I bounce back a little bit to David?

 

In some ways, Chris was, you know, Chris is also hinting at, you know, changing how we interact with our kids. You know, when we think about grit often, there’s also an element of pushing people into more risky situations. I mean, I’m curious if you could tie that together for us. Risk, exposure, risk and manageable risk and grit. And what’s the dynamic there, sort of or is there a dynamic at all?

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: Well, I think. I mean, now you’re getting to kind of the frontiers of where the field is, but I think that for a long time, our research on a growth mindset encouraged people to embrace challenges and failures as learning opportunities. Right. But there’s a growing realization that there’s only so much you can do at any one time in terms of being completely out of your comfort zone and teetering on the edge of exhaustion and so on.

 

And there’s a potential mental health risk from constantly striving to improve yourself. And so I think things like grit and growth mindset are kind of complementary with or maybe even synergistic with the belief that stress and anxiety that we feel can be an asset for us rather than a liability for us.

 

So there’s a growing recognition that in work by Ali at Stanford, that the true feelings of stress and being overwhelmed that we have don’t necessarily have to be bad things that debilitate us, but actually can be viewed as opportunities to optimize performance.

 

For instance, when our pumping more blood to our brains and to our muscles, that helps us, you know, think faster and be stronger and so on. So I think Compliment, it’s really important to compliment the parts of ourselves that allow us to embrace greater difficulty and push ourselves with ways in which we can kind of cope with the inevitable stress that comes from being at the frontiers of our abilities. So that’s a big kind of risk that I think you need to pay attention to.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Wow, that’s that’s a that’s a really sort of great that that idea of being pushed and taught to to to be our best selves. Could I could I ask both of you or maybe I’ll start with Christopher here on this one; Just in talking about this conversation, I mean, I’m conscious that we are three rather privileged people talking about this these concepts of mindfulness and grit.

You know, sometimes the field of resilience gets criticized for pull up yourself by your own bootstraps and and, you know, just ignore the social conditions. I mean, we’re in a moment here of Black Lives Matter and and social justice movements.

Indigenous rights. Me, too. How does that temper how we teach these to our kids or indeed, which children benefit most from grit and indeed from mindfulness based practices? I mean, I know these fields are wrestling with these issues. 

And can I ask, Christopher, if I’m not pretty much on the spot with that?

 

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: Absolutely. I think this is such an important question. Such a challenging question. And I think one of the one of the mistakes that we often make kind of in our in our ivory towers and whatnot and and kind of myopic with our privilege is that we have instruments that measure only only things in certain kinds of ways. And so thinking what are other ways that we can think about? How do we truly measure something like grit? What does that really mean, perhaps in different cultural contexts?

 

We also do spend I mean, there’s been I mean, I love it. I’m a mindfulness guy. There’s so much research on mindfulness all the time that I get asked. You know, I used to travel a lot for work.

 

I certainly don’t anymore. Right. But, you know, like is is this mindfulness is drumming. Mindfulness, is dance mindfulness. And in some ways, what I’ve become aware of is they’re not mindfulness and they can be done with mindfulness. But we’ve really privileged mindfulness as something that we study.

 

And I actually bet that if we studied dance or if we studied chanting or if we studied drumming, we’d actually also find tremendously wonderful results in terms of what’s happening in the brain, in the body and the nervous system.

 

We’ve just chosen not to do that. So I think for one thing, we should allocate more resources to other kinds of practices that may have similar effects on the brain, body and nervous system and on certainly as that’s developing in our kids.

 

So that feels important. And then I think also we can look at measuring grit in different ways. And we can also I want to go back to your comment earlier, David, about meaning. Right. We know that there’s a few things that create meaning.

 

We know that. Excuse me. They create resilience. We know for one thing. Right. That that charismatic adult, that one consistent adult in a child’s life. Right. Sometimes that’s me as the therapist. Right. I hope I’m that to my own kids.

 

Right. Educators also often are in that role or other kinds of community networks. So we want to remember that. And the other thing that’s often really when we look at kids overcoming ASYS adverse childhood experience is the small and large traumas that many of our are, especially underprivileged youth, tend to face.

 

That the other one is finding a sense of meaning being a part of something larger than themselves. And hopefully that’s a positive, productive thing. Right. And in other times, maybe that was a spiritual path. Right. And current times that might be something else, some other kind of cause around justice.

 

But that’s another way to actually build resilience, is to join something larger than ourselves that feels meaningful. And so we want to look to those also, as in how do we want to try and share those and make those accessible.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: David, do you want to since Christopher kind of brought up grit there and different cultural interpretations of it. And I mean, families listening in here, people listening to this will come from a wide array of social locations, different backgrounds, races, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, different life experiences, some good, some not so inclusive and good.

 

What what what does this what does this tell us about how we, you know, have different families are going to create grit in their children?

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: Yeah, I mean, it’s a is a great question. And, you know, for us as a panel coming from groups that have been accorded lots of privileges in our society, it’s important for us to think about it carefully. You know, I used to say there’s three things that I kind of really important to think about. The first is what’s the history of these ideas? So. For a lot of people, grit and resilience is the opposite of test scores.

 

It’s not the opposite of social circumstances that cause poverty. It’s the opposite of test scores. And the reason why that’s like a pro equity framing in many people’s minds is because test scores are so highly associated with economic privilege in our society.

 

I mean, you can you can pay Kaplan to increase your test scores by 20 percent percentile points. And so if you can do that, then that the college admissions goes more to the privileged and so on. And Paul Top’s written beautifully about that.

 

So I think the you know, a lot of initial excitement like from Dave Levin and KIP guys about not correct; was mainly because of valuing things other than a test score that your family’s income can almost perfectly determine.

 

So that’s one. The other is, you know, resilience really comes from the strengths based movement starting in the 90s. Right. It’s a reaction to the early 90s, late 80s view of youth of color, like, you know, coming from low income neighborhoods and threatening suburban white people, really, which is I guess it was that was that was a political strategy. Right. And was this like an accident that that was the narrative about youth of color. And so, you know, the focus on resilience going back to pitmen and lots of other people in the 90s was saying, no, our young people have tons of assets.

 

They have lots of strengths. We’re overlooking that. Now, I think where there’s kind of a flip is in the 2000s, it really became kind of character education. And that was a reaction to the idea of schools kind of, you know, losing their way and not having a moral core and a moral center.

 

And so grit now fits in kind of a character education framework. But I would just say that there’s nothing about the science or the measures or anything like that that are inherently on one side or the other. It’s really how we decide to frame it in a given kind of cultural debate.

 

And we tend to co-opt those things for political narratives that we have.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Well, let me that was like a big I mean, this is a we could do a big seminar just so. But the purpose here, of course, is to bring this down, obviously, to make this somewhat practical for clinicians, but also for parents.

 

I mean, so so coming back to this, I mean, how how do we have, how do we start conversations with our kids on. You know, you need. OK, look, you need a little more or you need of regulate a little bit.

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: I would say I would say like a big lovers’ school boards where, you know, parents as as parents, we have a lot of power over school boards. We can testify, we can influence people. We can we can vote, we can nominate candidates.

 

And school boards really set agendas for school districts and agendas that have a social emotional learning component that are equity focused, are really powerful; Very consistent, finding over decades is if you have high expectations for young people who are facing socioeconomic disadvantage and enough supports so that people can meet their high expectations.

 

That’s where equity and Daxter equity happens and where disparities are closed. And we can there’s a lot that can be done in school districts around the country right away to make sure that every child has a right to that kind of emotionally supportive and intellectually stimulating environment.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Well, and maybe I know, Christopher, you’ve been working a lot with, of course, different groups to get these ideas moving. What have you seen working in terms of how do parents or indeed school boards get these ideas to the kids?

 

How do they have these conversation starters and, you know, introduce these ideas so that kids are kind of motivated to pick up on them?

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: I think the biggest thing is demanding it of our public school systems, because right now what happens is you can exit the system and pay for it in a private school.

 

Right. So the more that you the. And so that’s a tragedy of the Commons problem. Right. What’s good for me personally and my kid. You know, it takes resources away. So I would say if if you take your kid out of the system, go to a private school. Fine. But still go to the school board and demand that the public schools have the same kinds of supports that we’re willing to pay for with our private dollars. Because just young people really deserve an emotionally supportive environment.

 

And adults who who deeply care for them, they’re going to challenge them.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: And that includes, of course, teaching them self-regulation, mindfulness and passive. One jump in. Chris?

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: Yeah, I mean, I think absolutely, and I you know, in my work, I do feel like I work often as an advocate, and it is often going and simply teaching this stuff. I had a friend a few years ago who was she was like really fired up about mindfulness, for example. She’s like, let’s go talk to our state rep. And I was basically like, you’re nuts. No way. She’s like, they have to give us the time of day. So we went down to the state house in Boston and had a brief conversation about how wonderful mindfulness can be and the research. And he kind of rolled his eyes, but his wife was actually a teacher, our rep, and she was very compelled by this.

 

So I do think when we present what the evidence is, I think that that can be really helpful. And I think also, just as when we kind of try to convince anyone of anything we want to have, you know, the data that’s out there.

 

But we also you know, all of us here on this panel are kind of coming from, again, that ivory tower, you know, and so there’s that sort of like, you know, don’t just listen to the eggheads, but also give people real experience and an emotional experience and testimonials also of how this works and how we’ve really seen this work. The co regulation that educators can start to do with their kids, that then teaches in turn that self-regulation and testimonials from the kids and the educators who have made this actually work in their classrooms and their buildings, in their offices, that that can also really then help to to turn over and yeah, start to create more systemic change and cultural change, whether it’s in the classroom, in the building or in the larger district or in the larger community in different ways.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: I love what I’m hearing. I think you’re getting at this regulation idea.

 

Actually, David, if I could. But what about you? We’re just just just about to come up to time for the second panel, but could I ask you a final thought on any of the things that we’ve we’ve talked about, just a sort of a something you know, what’s your final impression of all this? And indeed, what would be a takeaway message for parents listening to this?

 

[Dr. David Yeager]: Well, I’m mainly trying to reconcile this from the realities of having four kids at home and no child care and a pandemic and like two working parents, you know, and the and the reality of that; as a college professor, I teach the rescreening. So in at least half over the last year and a half, so, you know, how do we think about screens and and how they allow us to do new things that we couldn’t do before and connect in new ways?

 

But, you know, also have some risks. And I think really the for me, the the biggest insight that I try to apply for my own research is this idea that – getting upset at my kids for being so addicted to screens doesn’t help because it’s like it’s like saying don’t eat that delicious thing, you know, wait for the second marshmallow and doesn’t matter how much you yell, they’re not going to wait for the second marshmallow, but. The idea of an appealing alternative like let’s go change something about the world. Let’s go make somebody happy right now, like that’s that gets my ADHD son kind of interested.

 

He’s like that. I do want to go make somebody happy right now, like let’s go make a contribution. And I think if we tap into this deeper, meaningful parts of our humanity more often than I think, we’re just going to be happier and and really kind of figure it out.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: Thanks for that huge, really inspiring, positive thoughts to go forward as well. And Christopher, if I might, just last comment back to you quickly.

 

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: And I do want to thank both of you. David, it’s a pleasure to meet you.

 

I hope we can continue the conversation. Michael, you too. And I feel like you should be an NPR, you know, talk show host or something like that. You did a good job facilitating this. I do think often it also comes down to, you know, again, to touch back to co regulation.

 

Right. What is it that we parents are doing? What is it that were, in fact, modeling for our kids, whether it’s around screens, using them in healthy ways? Right. Again, like these aren’t good or bad. It’s just what we do with them.

 

And seeing some of the opportunities that that did emerge in the pandemic. Some of the anxious kids that I work with, for example, were saying it was great. My teacher would like send me a direct message like a minute before they called on me, and then I’d be able to kind of prepare myself and answer the question.

 

. Right. So that, you know, again, there’s different advantages and disadvantages, of course. And it’s how do we use these tools? They’re not good or bad. It’s how we use them. And then it’s also how do we model using these?

 

Whether it’s as parents and trying to put my phone away when I get home or whether it’s as an educator. Right. Or whether it’s as a therapist kind of having these conversations and modeling this stuff so that I can then more effectively show my my kids how to use this in different ways for the for the best way we can.

 

And I think also in the pandemic, just to go back to mindfulness, you mentioned a quote from John Kabat Zinn. I’ll share another one. He had he says something about, you know, how can we go from human doings into human beings?

 

And I thought a lot about this pandemic time that we’ve been in. You know, I remember at first it was everyone was like, I’m going to learn five languages and run a marathon thinking, you know, maybe I should think about this time, not just what I want to do during this time, but who do I want to be like, what kind of father do I want to be? And to touch on what you are saying, David, like, you know, how can we go out and make people happy? How can we go in as the neighbors if they need toilet paper or something from the grocery store or put up teddy bears in the window or inspirational quotes around and start to make the world a better place and find meaning in that. 

And that’s the kind of people that we want to be and share with our kids. And that’s teaching through their example and to your co regulation as well.

 

And we know that those things actually build resilience at the neurological level, too.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: You’re both hinting at that as parents you are modeling this stuff.

 

[Dr. Christopher Willard]: trying to.

 

[Dr. Michael Unger]: I’ll just leave it with one last thought from my research certainly echoes exactly what you’re both saying. It’s so helpful. I live in a part of the world where I call ourselves we are casserole people. Someone down the street needs help. You bring them a casserole, young. We are we so our community together here on the East Coast where I live.

 

And I like to think that maybe that modeling that for kids, which is exactly what we’re talking about, grit and mindfulness and self-regulation in part, that’s how we show our kids. So thank you very, very much for this inspiring.

 

Now, I’m going to pass it now back to Gabrielle to move us on to our second panel iIndeed.

 

[Dr. Gabrielle McHarg]: Well, thank you so much, Michael, Chris and David. This has been such a great discussion so far, and I’m really looking forward to hearing from everybody else.

 

As a reminder, those of you who are listening in, please do share any questions you have for the panel using the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen. And let us know if you would like to ask on camera if time permits.

 

Now, without further ado, let’s meet our second moderator, Dr. Deborah Gebauer, who is a board certified, attending family physician and clinical associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. G speaks internationally on resilience and youth development and is a media spokesperson on this issue.

 

Her work with businesses and families focuses on the skills needed to turn stress into resilience. So welcome, Deborah.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Thank you. I really appreciate it. And I hope everybody listening God as much as I did out of the first panel conversation.

 

I think you’re going to see that we’re really having one larger discussion. What we just heard, among other things, is that all of the things that we think we know, screens are bad, teens don’t care or want to try, that stress is dangerous.

 

But none of that is the whole story. But things are a lot more nuanced than that. And that not only we as adults can see that things are more nuanced. So can our kids. So can our students. So can our patients.

 

From my point of view, I’m a family doctor at a federally qualified health center and I speak a lot about resilience because resilience is what fills that gap between when you’re sick getting better and actually being well. And that that piece makes a big difference.

 

I want to tell you a quick story about when I realized that this issue, these issues of grit and resilience were so important to me as a physician and as a parent and as an educator. I walk into a room and I saw a patient whom I’d known at that point for probably four or five years already.

 

She was a woman in her middle 50s, a white woman, college educated, financially doing OK. And she suffered from progressive M.S.. This is a rare subtype of multiple sclerosis, where no matter how bad things get, when you’re sick, when you have a flare, that’s your new baseline that becomes your new normal.

 

So she was getting sick pretty quickly. And when I saw her that morning, she’s reliant entirely upon her wheelchair. She uses a toggle at her chin to move it around. She used a great deal of technology to make her life a little bit smoother and more interactive and more connected to other people, to her family, her grandkids.

 

And I came into the room and I said, Hi, Mison. So how are you this morning? And she says, Oh, I’m great. My grandson turned one this weekend and he’s getting to be such a big boy and had nice party and the flowers by my front door, really beautiful.

 

And I’m going to that first Friday concert series in the park Friday night. Really looking forward to it. We went on and we had our visit, and I don’t think that I would have learned the lesson that I had coming to me, except that it was just a, I don’t know, two or three patients later, when I walked into the room next door, saw another patient who demographically also Caucasian, college educated, socioeconomically middle class. And in her medical chart, she has some mild, occasional low back pain. And that’s all that’s listed. And I said, hi, how are you today?

 

And she said, terrible, nice to tell me what’s going on. And she said, well, just you know, nobody understands about my back and how bad it can be. And my family doesn’t think about that when they plan things and my work doesn’t accommodate me.

 

And I said, have you been having pain? And she looked at me and she said, well, no, but I might. And I went on to help her as best I could, but I couldn’t help thinking, quite honestly, how do I get my kids to grow up behind door number one?

 

Because honestly, as much as we wish as parents, as grandparents, as teachers and coaches, that we wish we could protect our kids from any bad thing ever happening to them, we know that bad things will happen to them.

 

That’s how life works. So our job is to give them the skills that they need so that when bad things happen, they can figure out what they need and ask for it or reach out for it or go for it so that they can be OK, given their circumstance that they can.

 

And this is how I define the word resilience so that they can navigate change, even really hard change and come through it the kind of person that they want to be. We as a society are going through an enormous amount of change from a tech level when I was looking through medical research articles to prepare for our

 

time together. I found this big retrospective from The Lancet about the impact of the digital world on children. And then I thought, oh, but it was written in twenty eighteen. Can’t be relevant anymore, right. Everything’s changed since then.

 

All these statistics are kind of garbage. The idea was the research was valid. But what will it say to me as a person thinking about kids in twenty twenty one? Heck, that was pre pandemic. You might as well say pre ice age.

 

In terms of all of the change that we’ve navigated since then, the impact of the digital world is great. It is great in that it is grand and large, and it is great in that it can be amazing.

 

We don’t have to choose to be on it. Right? This is a community of people near where I live that uses no technology at all ever. We don’t have to do that to protect our children or to live the lives that the mindful, engaged lives of purpose and doing good that we want.

 

And nobody that I’ve heard speak at this morning is suggesting that we do. But it can feel, especially as a parent or an educator trying to navigate this, that we opened a Pandora’s box of poison for our kids.

 

I really want us to think about this in terms of helping our kids with the decisions that are in their future. I want them to think about what should they take from this this online life, these opportunities digitally.

 

And what should they discard? When should they be open and interested and engaged with that online life? And when should they be skeptical or critical or step back a little bit? So a lot of the questions that we are parsing our way through today and that we’re about to hear from these amazing women speaking about their expertize is to help us decide what to take from this and what to leave behind. What’s really worth it? What’s valuable? What’s going to help our kids in the future? And. What should we say? You know what? No thanks.

 

I’d like to welcome to the microphone Andrea Hassan. She’s a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the former director of the Center for Developmental Science at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a developmental scientist and licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Hasan is dedicated to positive youth development and processes that may promote resilience over the first three decades of life. Andrea, will you join us?

 

[Dr. Andrea Hussong]: Well, it’s so wonderful to be here with you all. I’m just delighted and enjoying this panel very much. I was asked in coming in to talk about social emotional skills and development and resilience.

 

And in doing that, I’m going to enter and try to answer one question the next few minutes. And that is, why can the study of gratitude in particular tell us about building resilience through social emotional skills and digitally engaged kids?

 

So together, let me start a little bit with the issue of what I mean by social emotional skills or social emotional learning. So we talk about this often and a lot of different ways, but some of the things that are really important here is the way that our social and emotional development are really intertwined.

 

And they are a set of building blocks that build on each other across development. So an example of that here is a figure that I’ve called Castle’s work, talking about how even in infancy we have growing awareness of ourselves.

 

And as we get into those toddler years, we think about trying to manage that frustration. Self-Management becomes a big issue of how we’re socially engaged and emotionally regulating. And as we move older into the preschool years moving towards school, we get more aware of others in our lives and think about how we want to build relationships with them. And hopefully all of these things are foundational for how we make some responsible decision making as we get into childhood and adolescence. And this whole process unfolds over time. And it’s a really general model. And we can use that framework for thinking about specific ways that we see social emotional development come online.

 

For example, in some of the work that we and others have done in the field of gratitude, we think you just don’t start with gratitude. You start with things like labeling emotions, understanding emotions, and generally in how they work, perspective taking, which has come up earlier, and how that is not just getting someone’s point of view, but how they feel about it from the empathy components. And then as we’re moving into the elementary school years, we might see some of this empathy coming on board that we would recognize. Now, when we talk about social emotional development like this and the development of gratitude like this, we’re often thinking about years that we see something developing over time. But when we talk to parents and educators and people who work with children, they talk about gratitude as mammals. So instead of saying, oh, that’s my grateful kid and that’s my ungrateful kid, we often will say yesterday was when this kid was really grateful.

 

But they missed that opportunity. A couple of days before. And so it’s really something that’s happening in moments for parents. And we spent some time thinking about how do you unpack those moments and think about ways that all of us can intervene in those moments to support the development and experience of gratitude.

 

And so one of the places we start thinking about those moments is what do you notice? And so we’ve talked about noticing here already in mindfulness. What do you notice around you that you have or have been given?

 

And then you’ve got to make some sense of why is that thing in your life? How do I make meaning of that? And we’ve often draw drawn our thoughts and feelings to make meaning of that. So if I feel pretty positively about that thing I’ve got.

 

And I know that I don’t owe it back to you. It wasn’t something that was totally of my own regard. But there’s a kindness in how you gave it to me. I’m more likely to feel grateful than other emotions, and that emotion then might spur on an act of appreciation.

 

And so this is one way of thinking about how gratitude might unfold in a moment. Our noticing, thinking and feeling and doing to make gratitude happen. Now, if we move over time, we might have more and more of these gratitude moments.

 

And the more that we can cultivate those in our children, we might see that our children move into having a more grateful disposition. So they’re more likely to make meaning of things that they’re in their lives through this lens of gratitude.

 

And that can pay off for us in lots of ways. But particularly in our social rewards. So we know in some of the research that’s out there is that what things that gratitude does and how it functions for us is it helps us find prosocial other people in our environments, people who have our best interests in mind.

 

It reminds us to call on those people for support as we’re engaging in the world. And it also binds us to one another and makes those relationships closer. So what we end up having is a set of very person centered when inside the kid type of developing social emotional skills that does something we’ve already talked about in the previous panel. It builds support of social networks. And indeed, that is likely where the resilience lies in how we think about connective character like gratitude. That it’s between it’s those resources that we surround us with that really help us get through those difficult times and how screens come into all this.

 

Well, let me let me stop on this as we move through this. There are some ways that screens might interfere with social emotional development. And I would say the two we know the most about have to do with impact on our physiological regulation.

 

So the way we see reduced physical activity, as you have a lot of sitting in chairs and looking at screens and the potential for sleep disruption, especially with late night screen use. We’ve talked a lot about this in the culture in general, but these are ways that we think about something that might affect not just cognition, but that social emotional component as well, because it takes energy and it takes focus to regulate our emotions. So what can parents and educators be doing in this? Thinking about physical activity that’s not just physical activity, but also social engagement and pairing those experiences together.

 

Another thing with sleep disruption, there’s a lot of information about sleep disruption, but this is really targeting those before bed hours. Thinking about 30 minutes to two hours depends on your child before they go to bed, pulling out the screens, pulling out something else.

 

The writing pad, the sketch pad or whatever that is for your child to practice good sleep hygiene. Now, as we said before, it’s not all bad. Right? How do we use screens to help with social emotional development? We can do that, too, because our screens can help us connect with many different types of people and build out those social worlds. And they provide us opportunities to see all kinds of models, both good and bad, about how is the most emotional skills are playing out. So helping you find places to interact in these vetted safe spaces where they might interact with people who they wouldn’t interact in their own space.

 

We see this happening for youth looking at social justice causes, LGBTQ youth. We’re trying to find groups of people who they feel like they fit with. And that might be one way that we see a positive way. Screens are helping with those social connections and building those bonds.

 

And we also know there’s a lot about talking about what kids are seeing and picking apart the models. They’re not dumb to it. They’ve got a lot of thoughts. Right. So like any type of media, we can ask children what they see and what they think about what they’re consuming, using active listening skills.

 

And some of the things that we find is that sometimes it’s not so much what you ask children, it’s how you ask children that matters. And it’s both of those things together. We find that has the biggest impact on things like the development of gratitude in children.

 

So just to sum up my Take-Home points here, I think an important way that gratitude and other aspects of healthy social emotional development build resilience is by creating these supportive social networks for children and youth. And screens can both hinder and support emotional, social, social, emotional development in ways that adults can discourage and foster the term.

 

And finally, as we talk with children and youth about what they’re seeing on their screens, the way in which we have those conversations might be as important as what we say. And so with that, I will close off and let us keep moving on.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Andrea, thank you. That’s really interesting information. And I’m especially struck by it’s how we talk about these things that’s as important as what we talk about. I wondered if you could just in a minute give us some practical suggestions for younger kids and for teenagers if we’re trying to get them to interact a little bit more.

 

And and the sleep hygiene thing comes back to me regularly, because as a physician, I see so often the negative effects of poor sleep hygiene on adults and kids. And it is one thing to tell a kid what not to do.

 

Don’t be on your screen right now. You’re going to bed in a half an hour. So for most kids, that’s bad news on top of bad news, right? Yes. Yes. And all of a sudden, their world and maybe they’re already a little tired and they’re having trouble with self-regulation.

 

Do you have a practical suggestion for parents about how to use that? And and practically speaking, to not just like in an ideal world where the dishes are already put away from dinner and everything is orderly. And we’re just waiting to say, you know, like on the Waltons, like good night, Mary Ellen, Goodnight, John boy. But what in the chaos of a busy household at, say, eight or nine p.m., can we do without driving ourselves mad that will engage our kids in some way that doesn’t use a screen.

 

[Dr. Andrea Hussong]: Yes, I I’m I’m going to put I here two questions in there, so I’m going to put them together real here, and I have a cheater slide here. What is is how you have those conversations. And we do not even plan this. She’s going to plan this, that it was beautiful. Thank you, Deborah. One of the things is if you go in with an agenda and you’ve figured out why your kid is doing what they’re doing, you might be wrong and that might go really poorly. And so before you go in with an intervention, assess what’s happening. Which means listening. So when we talk with our kids, we have an approach we call share and care. This is just general good parent adolescent communication.

 

Focus on the child. Ask open ended questions. Don’t try to deliver that message of it’s time to go to bed. That if it’s I mean, what do you think is going to make you feel better tomorrow and if if going to bed is part of that.

 

What’s hard about that now, what’s easy about that now, what’s going on for you so you know what those barriers are? And so you’re asking this open ended questions. You’re doing that in a way that you can share your thoughts and feelings as you’re having that.

 

But you’re also not you listening yourself. You know, hear that tone that’s kind of coming in. That’s really Judgegy. You avoid those pitfalls of really damning the whole situation. You don’t speak for your kids. You’re listening and you keep yourself short.

 

So these are just some really specific ways of how to work. And this is hard, by the way, to work on how to have those conversations so that you know, what you’re talking about with your kids and what the conversation is really about.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Yeah, I would follow up as a mom myself of four kids. It’s not like you’re letting them decide if going to bed would be helpful for tomorrow. So if they should, you’re just trying to be curious and engage them in conversation.

 

It’s not suddenly a democracy. It is just it is just trying to engage them. One of the things that I heard often as a young parent that’s been valuable to me even more is my kids have gotten older- is that when you feel frustrated, try to also be curious, be curious about what you’re missing or curious about what you’re projecting or curious about where it went wrong, as opposed to just assuming that it’s all going to be awful.

 

[Dr. Andrea Hussong]: I think I think any time we assume we’re often on thin ice.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Yeah, absolutely. OK. So thank you very much, Andrea. That was really valuable. And we’ll bring you back into the conversation. But before we do, we are going to talk to someone else.

 

We’re going to talk to Dr. Melanie Sage. She’s an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Sage researches the impact of technology on vulnerable youth, including ways that youth in foster care and LGBTQ plus youth can minimize risks online so they can enjoy the benefits of online relationships and community building. Melanie, welcome.

 

[Dr. Melanie Sage]: Thank you. I’m so happy to piggy back. We’ll have lovely transitions and I will just mere backwards with much of what has been said already, but with a little bit of a twist in that.

 

I am especially interested in working with kids who have had marginalized experiences, you know, who have perhaps been bullied or who are in foster care. And what I really appreciate about this panel is that everybody has been talking about resilience as a ecological frame for thinking about how to support kids, that it’s not just what how kids prop themselves up, but it’s really the environment that matters. And we’re talking a lot about parent regulation or parental mediation of kids who are using technology. And some kids don’t have those kinds of supports. Right. So we really have to think more globally about what providers can do, teachers, clinicians, neighbors. And so I’m going to share some tools that might be fitting for all of those folks. What we know from the literature, though, even though it feels really risky to us as adults in the lives of kids to be online, especially for those kids who might be struggling in some other ways, is that risk usually doesn’t equal harm. We experience a whole lot of risk in our lives. Right. Every time we get in the car, it’s potentially risky. And when kids go online, it’s potentially risky and they will see things that potentially cause stress for them.

 

But the existing research tells us in this space is that most of the time, risk does equal harm. So we see these very alarming statistics that say like, oh, 80 percent of kids have been exposed to cyber bullying.

 

But most kids aren’t able to bounce back. They have some resilience to deal with that. And and so we don’t want to conflate risk with harm off hand. The risk perspective makes it really tempting to say, oh, no, we’re not doing this social media thing.

 

And especially kids who are system involves sometimes bigger systems come from real protective frameworks and say like, oh, this kid is in foster care, can’t be in social media. It’s way too risky. But the only way to build resilience is to have some exposure to risk.

 

Right, because resilience is about bouncing back from those risks. So so part of this is an languaging and how we talk to kids about their online use, mirroring what Andrea was talking about. I’m getting really curious, as helpful and in framing for ourselves as people in the lives of kids, that technology also offers a lot of opportunities for a positive youth development. It’s kind of a concept in the literature made up of these six C’s, the competence, confidence, connection, caring, character, contribution. There are ways to do all of these things online. Which can not only build resilience in online settings, but also transfer to offline settings.

 

So again, mirroring Andrea’s advice. I say replace worry with curiosity. And I borrowed some techniques from motivational interviewing, which is a clinical evidence based practice for talking to people in. One of the major theories behind motivational interviewing is that when people talk about what they want to do different or how they want to change, they’re more likely to do it than if you tell them what to do different and how they should change. Right. So we can ask evoking questions to get kids to talk about what’s important to them and what they want out of their digital use.

 

And we might do that, for instance, around problem solving skills that they have in their digital literacy skills. So I might ask a question like, is there a way to block someone who’s bothering you on that app? And if if somebody is bothering them, oh, what do you think they’ll do?

 

So giving them some space to talk it out and talk through what they think the solutions are. And kids are really great at finding solutions and have expertize in this area that we often do not have as adults.

 

Right. So is having this great conversation with my niece, who is about 13 at the time. This is about five years ago when Snapchat was kind of taking off and I was hearing a lot of fear. And I have my own fear reactions about Snapchat.

 

We’re going to go live. It’s not recorded. I can’t check back in about what’s going on in that space. And she said I said, so, like you’re talking to this. She said she was dating somebody. She said, my boyfriend is online and I’ve never met him.

 

And I said, oh, how do you know that? He’s like, really your age? And he is who he says he is. And she says like, well, Snapchat is really the best way to do that. Like not like Instagram, where people can just post fake pictures.

 

But in Snapchat, people are giving you constant little snippets of their lives. So you see their bedroom and there that they live in their parents’ house and and that they’re like having their coffee or, you know, that they just got up.

 

And so. So these are ways of really kind of understanding a whole a whole person versus just a photo and text messages. And so these tools that we call extra risky kids are figuring out how to navigate with some safety. Again along that line we want to give kids space to problem solve. And remember that the exposure doesn’t usually lead to harm and that that resilience develops from overcoming those situations that could be risky. And, you know, video games, digital digital media is really good at kind of scaffolding this, right. You have that. You’re usually a character who runs into some risk and you figure out how to overcome it. And kids are really drawn to that. They want to meet a challenge and get better and and learn how to navigate the problems.

 

And then, you know, we often as adults minimize the relationships of youth and you see their online friends as real relationships. And adults are pretty good at being curious about in-person social relationships. And we can bring that same kind of tone to online relationships.

 

Ask like, oh, who is your best friend online? Tell me about her. What do you like about her? Andrea talked a little bit about active listening. I’ll take that one step further and build on that to say we can also use reflective listening.

 

So, you know, one way to do that is to listen very carefully for what values kids are bringing to the table, what they say they care about and like. And we can hand that back to them so we can kind of collect collect those good things that they say without lecturing.

 

So if they say maybe like, oh, like, yeah, I had to block this person and it was just getting to be too much. You can just hand that back to them, you know, recognize what they’re telling you and and say like.

 

So when somebody is bothering you, you block them. And I also heard you say you tell your friends not to talk about you to them anymore. That’s really good boundary study. That’s good problem solving. Right. So we recognize the things that people are doing well and we can help reflect back the things that are important to kids relationally. So when they’re telling us about our friends, maybe we stay back like, oh, you really like Jenny because she’s a good listener and she keeps their secrets. And those are really good qualities in a friend. I thought that’s the kind of friend that you want to be to focus on mine, too.

 

Right. So so we’re just having people back, the strengths that we see in their online use and online relationships. And that can help them. Think about the other issue that came up earlier in our panel about transferability of skills.

 

Right. If this is true right here that you have. Good boundaries, and you’ve made some good decisions, perhaps that can be true in other places in your life. So again, we come to that with curiosity and patience. So this is really what I’m studying, how we connect and understand the the linkages between offline and online resilience and in the work that I do with youth and in the stories that they’ve told me about their use. They say that their friends do you support their feeling of connectedness and belonging, which does lead to resilience. And there’s a group of youth who really don’t get that in their home spaces, and they get that in online spaces instead. So we might be especially worried about, for instance, foster youth going online, but they are maybe most likely to benefit from communities that they find there. Youth mostly use Internet communication technologies to stay connected to people that they have met in real life.

 

And it’s an opportunity to build and strengthen those relationships and some positive self disclosure online is one of the keys to strengthening relationships. So it’s not always bad that youth are talking about their personal experiences online. They they try to find information about who they’re talking to, to figure out whether they’re trustworthy like that Snapchat story, I

tell you. And they do a lot of thinking about how to keep themselves safe. So, you know, we ask youth, like, how do you know that this is a good relationship? How do you know that this is who you’re talking to?

 

We can really listen and learn from them. And and young people are pretty good narrators of their own situation and lives.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: I wondered if I could ask you a question, because I totally agree with you. I think that they are often real experts in navigating this world, but they’ll mess it up sometimes.

 

Right. Or content will come out and grab them that they happened on entirely by accident or through a completely legit search. Kids will just like. Ninety five percent of drivers are pulled over in the first five years of driving. 

Doesn’t mean we didn’t teach our kids to be good drivers. It doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing. We get into car accidents. Some were within our control. Some are not. Kids will have Internet accidents. They will see content that is potentially damaging. 

And so even like completely agree with you that not risk risk doesn’t necessarily mean harm and resilience requires exposure. Instead of just saying either it’ll probably be OK or a bad experience is valuable. Can we also give a third pillar to that by saying when, not if.

 

When a child is exposed to inappropriate content, how can we help them recover?

 

[Dr. Melanie Sage]: Yeah, that’s a great question, and I love the relational piece of that. We’re we’re helping them. And we’ve talked some on the panel already about self-regulation, co regulation and mindfulness.

And so those are all things that help build skills for for recovery. The other thing that we can do is try to talk about some of those things ahead of time. Right. Like what do you do when you’re really worried about a friend or. 

Oh, my gosh, I hear some kids like sees something bad online. Has that ever happened to you? What would you do if that happened? And then when it does happen, we can help kind of reflect on it with them.

Right. What did it what did it feel like when that happened? What decision did you decide to make about what to do about this? And how are you thinking about it? Again, trying to evoke from them and hand back to them the the decision making so that they can figure out how to navigate some risks, but also showing up and saying, like, you know, I’ve heard about some ways that kids handle issues like this. Can I share some of those with you? And trying to trying to have a conversation rather than them overreacting to the situation can be helpful because that’s part of that co regulation piece.

 

Right. If we’re really stressed out, like, oh, my gosh, she saw this terrible thing online, what clues that computer, what are we going to do? And you start problem solving for them. You might lose an opportunity.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: We miss an opportunity and maybe we amp them up inappropriately.

 

But I think that you also give us some other great strategies. You didn’t say if this happens, you said when this happens. Knowing that, that doesn’t mean that we as adults in their lives have failed either, that we don’t have to say, oh, if everything I put in place breaks down and I’m a terrible adult, then.

 

But when when you see something that is potentially damaging and I really appreciate that your suggestion was not to say, well, what would you do differently next time to avoid that, but to say when that happened, what did you do after recognizing that it’s not a full stop calamity? 

You didn’t you didn’t total the Internet car. You’re going to drive on the Internet again. So what do you do after that? I really appreciate your time and your expertize. And we’re going to come back to you. And before we do, we have one more amazing person to get to know and to hear from Dr. Lisa Fiora is a professor departmental chair of education at Lesley University. Dr. Fiore brings her background in developmental and educational psychology to her work. And as a licensed early childhood teacher, she infuses an understanding of children’s and students’ learning throughout her teaching, her research and her writing pursuits.

 

Hi, Dr. Fiore. How are you?

 

[Dr. Lisa Fiore]: I’m great, thank you so much for the wonderful introduction, I’m going to share my screen now with you all. So the beauty of going at the tail end means I have the wonderful position of being able to thread some things together that have been shared before and also to perhaps address some things that can fill in some some gaps if we I think this has been so rich. So I had this slide at the end of my presentation, and during our discussion, I moved it to the beginning. I vacillated because I want to just pause for a moment, not only on the beautiful images, but to underscore an R, a word that starts with our resilience, yes, but relationships. And Dr. Sage pointed to this, too, we’ve all spoken about this in different ways: how important it is for children, for humans to be seen, known and valued. And I think part of the appeal of online connections for children and people of all ages is to be seen, to feel heard, to have a space where perhaps if you’re a little reticent to speak up in a group this way, you get a platform where you don’t have the same social concerns that you might in a different setting.

 

And I also want us to just acknowledge, again, the assumptions and biases that we come into this discussion with and that we walk through life with. So I’m wearing my readers, but I am giving all of my students this semester some plastic sunglasses so that we can literally pull them out in class discussions when we want to put on a different set of lenses to recognize how we’re viewing information, thinking about research, literature. Lots of literature has been conducted with a population of humans that doesn’t necessarily reflect the lived experiences of all humans. That’s really important to acknowledge.

 

And it’s important to acknowledge the expectations that we have about screen usage as adults. For instance, when working with children who are 50 years or fewer younger than we are, and it’s just we cannot necessarily project our own experience onto their lived experiences.

 

People that I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with in the field of homelessness and trauma, sometimes in utero, people are affected by life circumstances beyond their control. And so when we see behavior playing out, it’s not someone’s fault.

 

It’s literally something that could have occurred two generations before and had ripple effects on their lives today. So this particular article that I posted here, a link to talks about orchids and dandelions and thinking specifically about children relating to risk and resilience. Orchids, when you look at an orchid, you think of it as this beautiful, sometimes fragile flower dandelions that grows through the cracks that can survive virtually anywhere, anywhere, no matter how hard we might try. And so I think a lot of what we’re talking about can really be summed up with the phrase it depends dot dot dot.

 

A lot of things depends. It depends on the human being. It depends on their nature-nurture balance. It depends on so many factors that we can and cannot see. So I just really wanted to start with that and then even think about concluding with that as well.

 

This image here I wanted to show thinking about developing grit. It’s already been said before that grit. I have a sort of fundamental issue with the word grit, because for me, the sound of it conjures something kind of like icky.

 

And and when you think about what associations you have with it, whether it’s like dirty, you’ve got grit under your fingernails or you’re walking on something that feels gritty or you’ve got guts when you chew on the movie, True Grit, et cetera.

 

It does have that harsh, kind of painful association. So it’s not that we’re saying that we want to teach children to endure pain or that having a high tolerance for struggle is necessarily a good thing. As it’s already been discussed, this image that I have for you was taken a couple of years back on Twitter, actually. And so thinking about, hey, if you can be motivated and work real hard, you too, can achieve this goal. Sometimes you can, and sometimes you just can’t.

 

So I think it’s important to recognize, first of all, want to call out, literally say out loud the names of some women whose research has been cited today, Carol Dweck related to growth mindset and also Angela Duckworth related to grit.

 

Angela Duckworth, who will freely say that she is looking at the psychology, not necessarily the social systems that influence these experiences. So that’s something we have to acknowledge again. We’re not looking at the broken systems. We’re looking at the psychological thing we’re calling grit so we can teach students how to persist.

 

We can provide whatever tips and tricks we can. But if a student isn’t motivated, if they don’t have resources, if they don’t have talent or the desire to practice, they might not achieve as much. An example was given before by Dr. Willard about the spelling bee or actually it was Dr. Yeager, I think.

 

Spelling bee. Yeah, the students who forced themselves to study for hours and hours and hours and perhaps sacrifice other events and other experiences are going to do better because they’re doing the work, the hard work. But some people, no matter how hard they try, just don’t have the talent to get as far.

 

So it’s a combination of all of these factors. So for me, one of the big takeaways here on this particular slide is this concept of unconditional positive regard. How can we look at every human being and have some strengths based, you know, words for them?

 

How do we hold them in a place where we can give everyone something that celebrates who they are, et cetera? So tying things back to growth mindset. Another scholar, Mariyam, cover, this notion of hope is a discipline. If you are not familiar with Dr. Cavas work, I would encourage you to look up information about her, an educator and activist thinking about racial justice, gender justice, restorative and transformative justice. And so a colleague of mine met in Reno was talking about hope being a discipline.

 

We can talk about hope, but it’s not something we can just put out there and expect will come if I hope for it. So I’m going to give you some concrete, tangible things, some tips and activities that I think will work with people again, children, but also people of all ages.

 

And here the critical piece is this future thinking part, and it’s related to growth mindset, thinking maybe I can’t do something now, but I can perhaps if I practice, if I put in the time and effort that is required.

 

So screen time thinking about for some students or people that, you know, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. I want to make sure we keep saying that that screen time does not equal bad. It’s not that something is all good, all bad.

 

We have to just really think about it depends. And knowing our children, seeing them, knowing them and valuing them and honoring who they are. Sometimes screen time can be an escape or a distraction. I’m a mother of two teenagers.

 

My son, when he gets overwhelmed, playing video games with friends, helps him decompress a little bit. I hear him talking with his friends about issues that can be really personal. And I know that if they were in a face to face context, it would be harder for them to have that conversation.

 

So I’m grateful for that. There are many developmentally appropriate sites that caregivers, teachers, educators do not need to worry about curating because they’ve been curated for you, which is wonderful. Film sites like Netflix, libraries, you have an opportunity to share space with friends and others and communicate that way, so you feel part of a group. And also thinking we’ve talked heavily today about, you know, we’re in this pandemic. So a lot of learning has been shifted to an online or virtual setting. But there are some benefits to that setting.

 

Some students are actually thriving in that setting. So it doesn’t work well for everyone. And I think many parents and students and educators, frankly, find it very frustrating. But many people have found it to be really wonderful. And the social opportunities that these types of settings provide are also something that I wanted to acknowledge as well.

 

So getting to some activities, I want to spend some time because I know our time is short, but we can answer questions and perhaps elaborate on some of these. Thinking about activities that take time. I’ve highlighted some words that to me are the important ones to focus on here.

 

So this notion of a delay of gratification, not needing something immediately like many things, you know, we’ve talked about phones and online resources. We can literally find the answer to a question now in a matter of seconds. I grew up with the paper hardcover encyclopedias that I had to leaf through or work my way through the Dewey decimal card catalog in the library. Now you find it instantly. So helping children again, working from young children through adulthood, you know, realize that sometimes things take time and that process is really important. So this future thinking, coming up with a plan, setting some short term goals and then the longer term goals are really helpful.

 

And puzzles or coloring exercises and collaborative activities are wonderful ways to do that. Also want to underscore this notion that we often tend to have that judgment that’s been mentioned, too. And look at the deficits. What can we not do yet?

 

What is missing from someone or some academic plan, let’s say? So thinking about what children or students can do can be really wonderful. And as adults, parents, caregivers, we need to sometimes let go of our own concerns about children, you know, with that risk taking.

 

Here comes the risk. Risk it’s already been said several times isn’t such a bad thing. And it’s actually how we sometimes learn. And, of course, you know, moderate risks. We can, you know, often tell the difference, but sometimes you need to be more explicit.

 

So thinking about Google Maps, for instance, as a way to plan a route for a child who wants to go somewhere on their own for the first time, or maybe meet up with a friend using screen time to literally plotted out, where do you need to go?

 

How long is it going to take? What’s a visual reference? So you know where to turn, left or right? And there are many other types of maps available. Experimenting with the recipe to cook or bake for the first time, I don’t think my son turned on the stove until he was 18.

 

And that’s totally on me and also on him for being quite content with me, doing most of the cooking for him. So thinking about if you’re a child, for instance, who wants to dabble and a caregiver being OK, letting a child use a stove, take that risk, can you cook?

 

And maybe you’ll get burnt, but you’ll be OK. And so using online activity, time to find some interesting recipes. If food allergies are an issue, think about how children feel very isolated. If they can’t have gluten or peanuts excetera, feeling left out.

 

There are communities online where people are sharing recipes that can be tried and what’s the word when you are reviewed for others to see. So that’s experimenting, taking some risks and then connecting, connecting with people. There are so many online communities for music fans, for instance.

 

Think about music, theater, sports fans, et cetera. And so I love Dr sages: Thinking about blocking. Sometimes if someone’s saying something in an online space, for instance, that doesn’t make you feel good. And likewise, I’ve said to my teenage daughter, when she gets frustrated with someone on a particular site, then don’t look.

 

Why are you even looking if it’s bothering you? So it can work both ways. I think we sometimes have to curb our own instincts to to seek that information out. So this is, again, just a very concrete activity that you can do in 3-D with paper and scissors, glue, et cetera, or online.

 

So thinking about screentime, this idea of a vision board, setting a goal, thinking about something that I would like to achieve or actualize for myself. So this is something, for instance, using Google Slides, you can just literally cut, paste, drag and change.

 

This is, again, an opportunity to have a conversation with the child and let them create something. They can have their own private one. Maybe they have one that they share with you or other friends. There are many different ways to do this, but it helps them notice progress toward achieving a goal.

 

Look back at something and say, oh, wow, I thought I really wanted to do that. But now it’s not so much. But it lets them feel in charge of their own future and gives them some ways to literally craft something that they can reference when they’re feeling perhaps a little blue or off track.

 

And sitting with that feeling, realizing, again, getting back to the future thinking and growth mindset. I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress and with some time and asking for help, which is the other really important thing, I can achieve these goals.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Dr. Fiore, So I think that this is really, really useful. And I love although I can almost picture the look on my kid’s face if I said so, just don’t look right. There is developmentally a drive in teens for comparison, for peer feedback that is different than although no more valuable than but different than and sought after differently than family feedback. So I wondered if you could talk for just a second about resilience in the digital world and the struggle that many teens have with the unattainable beauty standards and what’s considered reasonable to try and achieve what’s considered beautiful or healthy or fit or desirable.

 

[Dr. Lisa Fiore]: Sure, and there’s I wish I had the magic answer, so spoiler alert, I don’t have the answer, but I do think in the teen entertainment world of, you know, I’m thinking of singers, my my daughter happens to be a big music fan.

 

So she’ll follow, you know, on different sites. For instance, Taylor Swift or members of the band One Direction and Lizzo. And there are lots of people who are being very forthright online about their own personal struggles. And as as children get older and have the perspective, is that perspective taking have the perspective to compare people to and with, and then think about how does this make me feel or how do I connect with this? That’s helpful when they don’t yet have necessarily that perspective. That’s what I think we get stuck thinking, that, oh, everyone should look like in all due respect to the Kardashians, you know, all people should look like the Kardashians.

 

And they’ve had multiple surgeries and millions of dollars to use for personal trainers, et cetera, which isn’t realistic for everybody. So I think there has been some movement towards at least opening conversations. So as the mother of a daughter, I am actually really heartened to see television ads, magazine ads showing women who look actually like humans and not like airbrushed composites. But I do think it’s a discipline that we have to constantly ask those questions. Being curious about what you’re seeing, does that seem real? If we look at this picture from three years ago and then today, do they look the same?

 

And it’s it’s really interesting to notice what you notice and also to notice for people in the older age group. Why do you not necessarily see people who look 75 on on the covers of magazines and what what’s that message?

 

So being critical and opening space for conversation.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Yeah, I like that you’re using what Dr. Sage suggested in terms of asking questions and being curious and not only saying, well, obviously, or you can’t you see or that kind of language.

 

So, OK, doctors, we have a really excellent question that came in the Q&A. And I think that each of you will have something to bring to this topic. This person wanted to know, what about newer risk factors, our kids resilience ability and their current resilience levels impacted by individual struggles like Covid and social isolation and depression related to fear and dying, and the constant barrage of news media and social media. So have the events in the last 18 months impacted their current resilience and their ability to be resilient in the future? Dr. Hussong, can I start with you?

 

[Dr. Andrea Hussong]: Yes, I’d love to. There is a special issue of the Journal of Research on adolescents that just came out this week that has 21 articles from around the globe looking at something in this question. Can you summarize them for us in about 45 seconds?

 

I can and here they are. One is it’s a much more nuanced picture than we’re hearing in the news. So we hear a lot about the mental health plummeting, the academic decline. There’s so much variance in there. And so that’s the first.

 

The second is. The people who are being hit the hardest are the people who are going into the pandemic with some of these risk factors on board. And so it seems to be really magnifying those differences. We’ve been talking about that with respect to economics and poverty gaps, but we see that in mental health.

 

We see that in family functioning. And so that’s a piece of it as well. Some of the things that are sort of surprising that come out are really looking at the way that things that might have been protective factors for youth like extroversion actually is a risk factor when we hit the pandemic.

 

And so that context and what the pandemic is polling for and how differently we all experience it, it’s not one thing. Right. It’s different for all of us. Has a big implication for how we might think about what that stress is.

 

We’re trying to be resilient, too. But a lot of the factors that are promoting resilience are the same types of factors we’re talking about now, those internal coping resources, the way we pull on family, those routines that are in place and we can engage.

 

And a lot of what we know right now is from the early days of the pandemic, that first year, it ain’t over yet. So the question of resilience cannot be answered yet because we’re still in it

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: And it’s still evolving for sure. And I like that. You’re also summing up Dr. Fiore’s main point, which was- it depends. But Dr. Sage, I wondered if you could speak for a minute, too. So Dr. Hussong just pointed out that people we used to think we’re a little protected in their mental health, like extroverts or kids who had an easier time asking for things or speaking up and advocating on their own behalf. And we know that self advocacy is a skill that protects kids from some of the negative decisions that can come out of mental distress, like self-harm. What about kids that in the past we’ve been more worried about, because in larger social settings, they were more at risk.

Has there been anything protective for kids in foster care or kids who are in the LGBTQ plus community, about things pulling back and being more digital?

 

[Dr. Melanie Sage]: Yeah, this is this is back to that- It depends, right, that we’re very worried about disparity is about the growing risk of harm for the kids who already are at risk coming

 

out of this pandemic. And what the emerging research seems to show is that there are some kids like who maybe were really who felt very at risk or who are very marginalized in school settings. And now they don’t have to go to school and they can control their environments a little more, and maybe they’re doing a little bit better in some spaces. And then the opposite is true, where schools are a great protective factor for some kids and that they’re really missing out on. So so the effects of the pandemic are certainly uneven. The other piece of the emerging research around being online seems to show that kids who who have been online longer, who 

are already navigating online relationships, eased into this kind of online world of the pandemic and how to find social support online a little easier than kids who got all their social supports in person before the pandemic. And now they’re like, oh, how do I stay connected to my friends online?

 

So this is a little flipping a switch for us. For those of us who thought like, oh, like online relationships aren’t as healthy as in-person ones are, we need to reduce the online time and get people out into the world.

 

We really we’ve really had to rethink a whole lot of things in this environment, right. And like we’re starting to ask questions. What does a healthy relationship look like online? And I love asking those questions to kids who are saying all kinds of things to me that I wouldn’t have thought about.

 

That isn’t in our culture of healthy relationships face to face, like, oh, they respect your time zone, and yet you never would have thought of it, that that’s that’s a sign of respect for kids. Right. And so so we can help kids think about what this looks like for them to be healthy and safe online as a way to help narrow that disparity.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: I’d like to highlight for everybody listening that we’ve said something that each of you said something in different ways that I want to be really clear about. Today’s kids and teenagers do not consider people they’ve met in person in real life relationships and people they’ve met online as not real life relationships. These are all their relationships and their people. And when we as adults, especially someone for me in Gen X, if we try to make that distinction, we distance ourselves from kids and we become someone who kind of can’t understand.

 

We’re devaluing some of their relationships. Dr. Fiore, so we keep talking about how things have changed and we want to approach risk as an opportunity and help kids and help ourselves see the value of risk and opportunities to build resilience.

 

And you said that it’s really important for us to see and notice kids. I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that a lot of parents have become even more fearful of risk, because we have first of all, we’re just a little bit hyper vigilant because we’ve been overstimulated by risk and fear in the last 18 months.

 

And some parents in a lot of settings have always had to be hyper vigilant and have always been overstimulated by the risks that they and their kids face. So if parents are experiencing all that, how do we get over our risk aversion or how do we measure risk in a way that takes into account the possibility that it can be good and really sees where our kids are at without putting our kids in harm’s way?

 

[Dr. Lisa Fiore]: That’s such an important question, and I think, you know, gets to the again, thinking about lenses and recognizing our own lenses through our own lived experiences, what feels risky to me might not feel risky to Dr. Sage.

 

You know, each of us has to measure our own comfort level and as a caregiver, trying to adjust, recalibrate. And this is a process. It’s not like you do it once and you’re done in a few. Every every day there can be a new challenge.

 

So I think it’s very important for us to every day breathe and realize like this feels really hard right now. So I’m trying to be proactive or productive at work. And as a parent and as a daughter, you know, I haven’t seen my family in California in a couple of years.

 

So wrestling with that guilt for not getting out there, we’re all juggling so much. And frankly, technology is really helpful in many ways. We can find, again, these communities where people have put up frequently asked questions, you know, trying to measure like, gosh, it was what I’m feeling excessive or is what I’m feeling what so many people are experiencing right now, measuring our own level of comfort. But I really do think it’s important for us to try very hard. This is where that mindfulness is so helpful to breathe, to feel centered, grounded, whatever, even though it shifts sometimes minute by minute, recognizing that we are not alone, that we have others with whom we can connect even anonymously through chat lines and chat boards, et cetera, and just trying to gain comfort. There’s that exposure to see how I’m threading things together with these little opportunities to take risks. There is a curriculum called Let’s Grow: for parents to try and let children take some little risks and be independent people. And it’s hard. It’s really hard. But this other piece of wonderful wisdom that’s actually cited in Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, that I would recommend to people is we can do hard things.

 

And I think that’s the other piece that we have to feel more comfortable with, that it’s hard sometimes, and that’s OK.

 

[Dr. Deborah Giloboa]: Absolutely. That knowing and it’s it’s really not even an if it’s like we were talking about earlier, when it’s hard to let our kids or our teens get into a difficult situation.

 

That’s OK. That’s where we’re supposed to have a parenting author that I like very much said if you’ve ever watched a little kid climb a little higher on a piece of playground equipment than you think is necessarily safe, not shoot to the top, but like one rung higher than you think is OK.

 

That feeling that you get in your stomach, watching them, you know, should I? Is it? That feeling is parenting. Get used to it. And I found that pretty valuable. Dr. Sage, I want to ask you a question that just came in.

 

This question is, how do you build resilience in this current space where mistakes can be highly costly on social platforms like getting canceled? What are ways to protect our kids in situations from further perpetuating these risk factors? Right.

 

So if they if we’re going to let them risk and let them try things out on their own, but we’re worried that if they get canceled, there could be at risk for self harm. They could feel like because that’s their worldview and their brain development, like their world had actually ended.

 

[Dr. Melanie Sage]: Yeah, it’s scary, and I’ve seen some conversations about like the like this can feel so permanent and the state that’s made online can just really stick with you. And and and that has some risk of being online. And so the opposite of that, one of the really great things about having online conversations versus in-person conversations is that there’s some opportunity for rehearsal. Right? Like, oh, it’s like think before you act kind of stuff. What do you think’s going to happen if you say this versus that? And we can talk to kids before an event like that comes up to help them think through?

 

I’ve even talked to some parents who have kids who are autistic and have a harder time with social conversations, and they’ve really been able to kind of coach them around engaging socially online. And so the kids don’t know that they have a coach there, but they’re they’re learning some skills for engagement by watching other people and having some supports and jumping into a conversation. This question makes me think of Dr. Bruce Perry talks about arousal continuum, right? Like when you’ve got a kid, the hyper arousal, it’s not a good time to say like, oh, what are you going to do?

 

Like it’s no big deal. All right. So we have to work on helping with the self regulation. So so somebody who’s been through that experience of being called out online is probably going to be in hyper arousal. And we’re we’re going to work on that kind of reregulating piece or distressing a little bit before we have some conversations about like, so what happens next and what are the outcomes of this approach versus that approach? One of the really interesting phenomenon that’s happening online right now is like very public apologies for things that have gone bad online.

 

Right. And I’ve learned a lot. And I think that kids could also learn a lot by watching some of those apologies. Which of these apologies was effective and what are good ways to say sorry if you’ve really messed up.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: I think thinking through that, what happens afterwards piece again. And we’ve mentioned it several times is really important, and that when you are not at your most regulated, when you are having all of those emotions, it’s hard to use a litmus test.

 

Well, I’ve heard lots of people say, well, just make sure that your kid knows that they should be comfortable reading that to, you know, posting it on the wall. One of my sons, who’s 16, was a camp counselor at an overnight camp this summer, and he had 13 year old boys in his cabin for four weeks.

 

And they would say, can I tell a joke? And he would say, is it funny? And they’d say, yes. And he would say, is it appropriate? And some kids be like, yeah. And they would just tell it. And of course, it wasn’t.

 

And some kids be like, well, how do I know? And he would say, would you tell your grandma? And I asked him, does that work? And he said, well, let’s just say that apparently some of these kids have super chill grandmas.

 

And, you know, they’re not always the best judge of how something will land and that’s developmentally normal. So thinking through and I would recommend because it’s a resilience building skill saying not if you say something online that offends someone and you realize that you were in error.

 

But when you say something that harms someone online, how will you handle that? That when language helps them think through, OK, I will mess up so the world doesn’t end. When I mess up, I have to think about what I’ll do next.

 

I am going to ask each of you your final thoughts, and I’m going to ask it in a specific way. This event promised to answer a couple of questions. How can I help my teenagers develop grit and resilience in the midst of the pandemic and the concomitant digital media use?

 

How can I support my 15 year old’s development of grit and perseverance, even when information is always at his fingertips and everything comes with instant gratification? I’m not asking you to answer those questions now, because I think that we have done as best we can in this time a good job of starting to answer those questions. But if you can get into the mindset of a parent who’s thinking about this, about all the opportunity, everything that’s coming at us. And my job, which is to help me raise this kid to navigate change and come through it, the kind of person that they want to be.

 

Is there a through line or a deep breath that you would offer to parents who are trying to navigate that road? I’m going to start with you, Dr. Hussong, because you were nodding, so I’m going to hope that that means you had a thought.

 

[Dr. Andrea Hussong]: I’ll go with a thought. I think my thought is one of the things we focused on a lot is how parents are helping kids. And we need to focus a lot on how we help parents. So the breath is the breath the parent needs to take in realizing there are many good roads to parenting and not just one. And that sometimes it’s our own fear, anxiety. That’s the problem. So keeping that breath in mind, having those conversations and hearing where kids are, is where I would say are one way to move forward.

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: I think that’s a great lead-in to Dr. Fiore.

 

What are your thoughts?

 

[Dr. Lisa Fiore]: Yes, and I think, you know, knowing your child, this goes goes in line with that. So when you can breathe in and try not to focus on self and what your concerns are and your expectations are in your, you know, fears for future dot dot dot.

 

What do you see happening with your child or children or loved ones or students? You know, what motivates them start there? And how then do you engage in conversations? How do you find resources online or, you know, hard copy 3D and continuing.

 

You’re just committing to the journey and recognizing it could be bumpy, but you’re there.

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: Being there, not being perfect, being there. OK, Dr. Sage.

 

[Dr. Melanie Sage]: I’ll echo again what Dr. Hussong and Fiore, Dr. Ari said is that, you know, we are also developing resilience as parents and we also get it wrong sometimes.

 

Right. And we have to be able to take that breath after we get it wrong and go like, OK, like how can I handle this better next time? That same kind of reflective future thinking that we asked our kids to do, you know, how how do we grasp that and those parents and other providers who are watching now, maybe you’re already thinking, OK, I’m going to run into a kid who has had a fall out or is having a hard conversation. What am I going to say to them about who they should be online? And what would be my best advice for a young person about how to show up in a relational way?

 

[Dr. Deborah Gilboa]: I really appreciate all of that. And I just want to encourage everyone who’s been here to jot down actually right down with a pen, not even on a screen to write down with a pen. Something that struck you, whether you agreed with it or disagreed with it, but something that can help you as you navigate all of these changes to be the kind of adult that you want to be in kids lives. We cannot take all of the amazing strategies that were just presented and reframe everything that we do with kids. But if you can choose one thing that speaks to your personality and your situation and the kids in your life, then you will be acting in a resilient way. And we really appreciate the fact that you took the time to spend all this time with us, because that means you want to be intentional about some of this. And that intentionality has been shown to be what kids need to have that one charismatic adult in their lives that we’ve spoken about.

 

I’d like to turn this back now to Dr. McHarg and thank her and children and screens for creating the space for this amazing conversation.

 

[Dr. Gabrielle McHarg]: Awesome, well, thank you so much, Dr. G. And Dr. Hussong, Dr. Fiore, Dr. Sage and our other panelists from earlier as well.

 

Thanks again to them. Thank you all for taking the time to share your thoughts, your insights, your expertise, and excellent advice with us today. Thanks to all of you, as well as in Participants’. I echo what Dr. Gilboa just said, and thanks for joining us and for taking the time to do something good for your family.

 

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